According to Bill Belichick , when it comes to offensive execution, timing can be everything.
The Patriots coach acknowledged that the New England offense didn’t put up the typical crazy numbers Sunday it had over the course of the first 11 games of the season. But when it came down to the most important drive of the afternoon — a fourth-quarter sequence where the Patriots had to keep the chains moving and put some points on the board — the New England offense was more than up to the task.
“Ultimately at the end, it comes down to being able to make the plays you need to make to win the game,” he said on a Monday afternoon conference call. “I thought offensively, that was really a big key for us in this game, was when the game got to a certain point there in the fourth quarter, that we played our best football and we controlled the ball, we drove it the length of the field, we were able to go up by two scores. That really changed the outcome of the game.
“We’ve been in those situations before where we’ve thrown up a lot of big numbers, as you put it, or scored some points and then get to that point in the game and go three-and-out. So, it’s really about being able to do the things that you need to do to win the game, and I thought that’s what we did offensively.”
Here are some more highlights from Belichick’s Monday afternoon conference call with the media:
“Bess is a real good player. He’s one of the best receivers we see inside in the slot. I thought Kyle played well; really had solid game in terms of coverage, tackling, made a play on the blitz. But again, I think that’s also a function of the overall team defense. Sometimes a pass rush helps out the defensive backs. Sometimes the coverage helps out the pass rush and all that. Overall defensively, I thought we for the most part did a fairly solid job. We had some plays that weren’t the way we’d like for them to be but overall it was a pretty consistent game for us ‘ good on third down, a couple stops in the red area, forced field good opportunities. Kyle certainly held up his end of it and did a good job, as I said, in all phases of the game, not just coverage ‘ run force, opportunities he had to rush. It was solid.”
Defensively you guys gave up a number of big plays in the early part of the season and that has not happened lately. Were you always confident that as the season went on and guys got comfortable that the defense would be as solid as it has been the last several games?
“Again, I think you just keep preparing and working every week. You try to get better every single week. It doesn’t make any difference how well or not well you’re doing. Each week you have new opportunities to improve and to start all over again on a new opponent and make the outcome what you want it to be that week. I think that’s really what this team has done every week. Every week we’ve taken those opportunities and tried to improve ourselves individually and as a team and with each unit. I think the defense has done that. We’ve had some better results recently statistically. We’ve continued to win. So, I think if we continue to work hard and prepare hard and everybody tries to do a little bit better job at their job and with their unit within the defense and defensively as a total group, we improve our communication and execution and all those things that we have to do then we’ll play better next week than we played this week. It doesn’t mean the points or the yardage or the sacks or anything else is going’¦ we just play better as a unit and that’s what our goal is ‘ to improve every week.”
It seemed like Matthew Slater  had a standout day in the coverage game. He is always good but can you talk about his day yesterday?
“I thought he did an excellent job yesterday. He was really good for us. We only had the one kickoff and he was there on that play even though Niko [Koutouvides] really made the first hit on that. Overall in the punt coverage, he did a real good job. [Marcus] Thigpen is, as we know, an excellent returner. He’s strong and he’s fast and Slate was able to make those plays and not really let him get started, which you always love to see from your gunner. I thought he played extremely well; played hard. He got hit on that first kickoff return, our first kickoff return, he got banged up a little bit but he came back in and did everything and played well and was very productive. I thought he had an outstanding game for us. He really helped our field position and our punt coverage.”
In a game where the offense was not able to flip the field, did that make his effort even more valuable given the circumstances?
“Yeah, absolutely. The situation there in the third quarter, [Brandon] Fields did a great job for them of punting the ball out. They got one inside the 20 and we moved it out and I think we ended up with a touchback and they punted us out on the two and we made a first down, got a holding penalty but at least we were able to get the ball back out to midfield and then get a defensive stop. They were far enough outside of field goal range when we got the defensive stop that we got the ball back without giving up any points. So, sure, in a tight game like that, field position is so critical. Between the punting and the coverage, I thought Zoltan [Mesko] was backed up a couple times and got the ball out of there pretty well, probably his best punt was the one that didn’t count on the roughing the punter. But his punting and Slater’s coverage, in a tight field position game like that was huge, absolutely.”